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Today in Movie History: November 22

It’s another big day for the movies, starting with a trio of modern classics from the Disney/Pixar brain trust. I have high hopes for the live-action movie coming out next year, but even with Emma Watson in the lead, it’s going to be hard to top the animated version of Beauty and the Beast: hands-down one of the greatest animated features of all time. It opened today in 1991.

Four years later, the boys at Pixar quietly started a revolution with the release of their first fully CG animated feature: Toy Story, the tale of a boy’s beloved cowboy doll (voiced by Tom Hanks), and what happens when he is replaced in his affections with an earnest-yet-terminally clueless spaceman (voiced by Tim Allen). You’ve seen it, you love it, and chances are if someone asked you to watch it again tomorrow, you’d be happy to jump right in. It opened today in 1995.

The third leg in this stool is Frozen, Disney’s attempt to shake up the princess formula and rake in a staggering pile of cash in the process. Its popularity is unquestioned, and it looks set for the long haul… though I do sympathize with those out there who would like a little break from “Let It Go” for awhile. (I’m still including the clip. Sorry not sorry.) Frozen opened three short years ago in 2013.

Those inclined towards slightly darker holiday fun have The Addams Family, Barry Sonnenfeld’s handsome trifle that has the benefit of holding up extremely well over repeat viewings. With inspiration drawn from Charles Addams’ original New Yorker cartoons, as well as brilliant turns from the likes of Raul Julia, Anjelica Huston and Christina Ricci, it makes a ghoulishly delightful tonic to the often-oppressive cheer of the season. It opened today in 1991.

I mentioned Branagh’s Henry V a couple of weeks ago. Today it’s Olivier’s turn. His fairy-tale style take on Shakespeare’s beloved play was intended to comfort and rally a nation at war, presenting a bloodless conflict and a king anointed by God to restore justice to the land. It was so beloved that no one dared touch the play before Branagh — cheeky bastard that he is — outdid him in 1989. This version of Henry V opened in its native England today in 1944.

The film forays of Star Trek: The Next Generation were a pretty miserable lot, by and large, with the glorious exception of First Contact. It brought one of the saga’s greatest villains, The Borg, out to play, and with Alice Krieg as the sensually sinister Borg Queen, gave the TNG crew a cinematic enemy worth fighting. It opened today in 1996.

We’ll close, as we’re doing a lot of late, with an Elvis picture. Blue Hawaii is far from the King’s best work — and even his best is a relative term in some ways — but there’s something comforting about pairing him with the Aloha State, and its bright, cheery contours are always worth celebrating. It opened today in 1961.

 

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